Do or Do Not.


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This weekend, after much deliberation, internal debate, planning, vague outlining, research and other wastes of time, I finally took my Young Adult horror/contemporary fantasy novel (hopefully to be series of novels, not to count my chickens when they are naught but embryos) out of my head and started putting it on paper. Well, virtual paper, anyway. I started writing Friday night and managed to find time to squeeze out about 5,500 words this weekend–far and away my most productive writing weekend in almost three years. (I have to graciously thank my lovely wife for allowing me to have today off; about three thousand of those words came this afternoon and tonight.)

I think I was able to get started because of something Amy said to me in an email last week. In addition to the other wonderful insights she had, she said to me (and I hope she doesn’t mind that I quote her here):

So rather than outline, I’m trying to just maintain forward motion so that in the end, I have the story down on paper–the biggest part of the job–and I can always go back and edit. What worked for me was freeing myself of attention to chronology and editing–writing like this gave me the momentum to just keep going.

That’s the National Novel Writing Month philosophy in a nutshell–keep moving forward, no matter what, no matter how awful the tripe spewing from your fingers. Just keep moving forward until you’re done. And it really does work.

But the biggest detail in there that got me going was that she said she freed herself from attention to chronology…which I took to mean that I didn’t have to start at the beginning. Not positive that’s what Amy meant, but that’s how I interpreted it, anyway. I’ve had a hard time deciding how the story should start, but I wanted to get going on it, so I just picked a visual I’d had in my head, a scene I knew had to happen at some point in the book, and I wrote that Friday night.

And then I felt like I was able to go back to the beginning, so I did…and I just kept writing, which was a pretty amazing thing for me.

My main problem at this point is that I’ve pretty much written most everything I knew was going to happen, and I have no idea what’s going to happen next. That’s both intimidating and a little exciting. I think I’ll get around that problem, though, because of something else Amy said, something else I’ve long believed (and previously touched on in this blog) but wasn’t putting into practice: plot grows from character, not the other way around. I’m hoping my characters will tell me what’s going to happen…soon.

Speaking of, I went into this with almost no conception of most of my characters and they’ve started to form much more fully in my head just from what I’ve written so far. Do I necessarily know their favorite soft drinks or the most traumatic moment from each of their childhoods? Nope–but I don’t need to right now. If I need to know that information, I’m feeling more confident that they’ll tell me.

I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of what I’ve written the past couple days is likely pretty wretched. I have no problem with that–because I’m really good at editing, and going back and fixing something I’ve done before is a lot easier than getting it out in the first place. I’ve given myself the freedom to allow my first draft to suck terribly in hopes that I’ll just get the draft done, and then I can go back and try to get that turd of a draft all nice and polished.

Okay, enough rambling. I’m putting my progress bar up there in the sidebar so all of you can see how I’m doing–and hopefully occasionally put pressure on me to make sure I’m keeping up with it. I’m expecting this book to be somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 words, so I’m about eight percent done with the first draft already. Not a bad weekend of work.

Written by Allen

August 7th, 2005 at 11:50 pm

Posted in Fiction,Writing

7 Responses to '5,500'

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  1. F-ing awesome, and inspiring. The irony is that I stumbled across this while I was avoiding my own writing. Now I HAVE to go write…

    timmy b

    8 Aug 05 at 12:12 am

  2. I don’t write fiction (though I do documentation and technical white paper work), but I can relate to the sense of accomplishment one gets from just sitting down and pounding out a first draft. Kudos on finding your rhythm.


    8 Aug 05 at 7:25 am

  3. I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I always hated writing. I hated it because I wanted to be able to start writing from the beginning and continue to the end and have it all come out perfectly. As everyone knows, that never happens for normal people. So, Amy is wise in her advice, don’t get bogged down in chronology. Write those scenes that inspired you to write in the first place. Everything else will come eventually.


    8 Aug 05 at 8:24 am

  4. Blushing First I’m quoted, then I’m called wise by Michelle. What a flattering morning this has turned out to be, and here I was just checking my email. Thanks, guys. :) Allen, that’s totally what I meant. I have many, many scenes towards the end of my novel completed because of this not-being-tied-to-chronology way of thinking. I have to wonder–and I guess we’ll find out at the end of our projects–if this theory helps the plot along as well. For example, maybe a scene I wrote at the end will actually find its way somewhere else in the story. Anyway, I’m so glad you got this much done in one weekend! That’s awesome.


    8 Aug 05 at 10:01 am

  5. Thanks much, all of you, for the support!

    Tim: You damn well better have gotten some writing done next time I talk to you. :)

    Dwight: I don’t know if I’m going to say I’ve “found my rhythm” yet or not, but at the very least I’m trudging forward. I have an easier time with fiction than I do with documentation…it would have taken me days to write that many words of documentation. shudder

    Michelle: Getting past exactly what you describe–the wanting the work to come out perfectly and complete the first time–has long been one of my biggest stumbing blocks. I’ve had to change my brain around quite a bit to be able to get to where I could accept that it wasn’t going to be–couldn’t be–perfect at first.

    Amy: The ongoing email conversation we’ve been having has been helped me tremendously. I think that just the fact of talking about this stuff with someone who’s been wrestling with the same problems has kicked my ass in gear a little. It’s also nice to know that I don’t have to know what happens next as long as I know something else that’ll happen later. But more on that in email. :)


    8 Aug 05 at 10:19 am

  6. Glad to see your progress meter has moved. Keep it up!


    9 Aug 05 at 8:45 am

  7. He’s a machine! He’s an automaton! He’s Terrific Typing Man! Faster than any normal man on the keyboard! Able to scale short-range goals with a single day off from his family! More powerful than a need to sleep after a big meal of greasy bacon and cheesy eggs!

    I’m so proud. :) Go Terrific Typing Man!

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